The Cost of Perioperative Nurse Turnover


I read an interesting study in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care that provided a staggering statistic: “~17.5% of perioperative nurses intend to leave their job within the first year of starting a new job.”  Think about that.  Almost 1 out of every 5 new nurse hires in the surgery space will plan to quit their job within their first year!

As facilities begin ramping elective surgeries, a sudden departure of a critical perioperative nurse could have a sizable impact on the plan to work through the substantial backlog.  Of the drivers for these quick departures, one main culprit is the sense from the nurses in the study that they have zero control over their work schedules and subsequently lack any ability to decide how to manage their work and family life balance.  Not only does that cause frustration for these nurses, but “the high-work demands with low control have negative effects on blood pressure.”  The challenges perioperative nurses face can have severe mental and physical impacts on them.

Moreover, the study illustrated the pace these nurses face during a typical shift.  “While at the hospital, the participants described working non-stop from the moment they came until they left.”  A lack of control of their schedules combined with a pressure packed day with no breaks was ultimately labeled as “inhumane” by the study.  Caregivers vital to the mission are being asked to perform at unsustainable levels.

The scariest part – the study was conducted in January and published in March of 2018; long before the realities of COVID-19 and the massive backlog that has now put a huge burden on every surgical team for months in the future.  I wonder how the study results would change under our current situation and the unknown duration of extended hours and weekend work as facilities endeavor to whittle away at the pile of elective surgeries.  I anticipate that the percentage of those that intended to quit within the first year would be significantly higher.  Facilities will have to find a balance between the urgency to get through the backlog and the potential for accelerating staff burnout.  Efficiency will be the absolute key if facilities hope to minimize the potential for a whirlwind of turnover!

Together, we can lift each other up!

-Marcus Perez, EVP